If you’re heading to Tamarindo this Semana Santa or waiting till the crowds have left, here’s a brief look at some of the best new, interesting and ongoing hotels and restaurants to check out.
After many years lying dormant, Hotel Pasatiempo is back in business. The logo with the laid-back guy swinging in a hammock says it all. This is a relaxed, comfortable 21-room hotel, right in Tamarindo, but set in a green oasis with a pretty pool and a great new restaurant (see Ttiki below).
Stylish, bright cabins – a mix of doubles and deluxe rooms and suites for families – have screens, fans and a/c, hot water showers and orthopedic mattresses. The Pasatiempo tradition of open mike night, on Wednesdays, has happily been revived. Rates include continental breakfast with eggs, starting at $89, double, including tax. Just past the turnoff for the road to Playa Langosta. www.hotelpasatiempo.com 2653-0096.
15 Love Contemporary B&B
If you’re a tennis buff, you can volley till you drop – into a comfortable, king-size bed at this chic B&B with three stylish rooms and one suite overlooking the two tennis courts of the Tamarindo Tennis Club. Guests have free access to the courts and member prices for private lessons with the club pro.
After tennis, you can cool off in a small pool and sip a fresh-squeezed juice from the Juice Bar. Rooms, mostly occupied by non-tennis players who appreciate the contemporary design here, have a/c, ceiling fans, cable TV, Wi-Fi and a hairdryer. A full breakfast is included in the rate, around $95 in high season (plus tax). It’s one block behind Main Street, 200 meters before the Jardín del Eden Hotel. www.15lovebedandbreakfast.com, 2653-0898.
French without being stuffy, this new, moderately priced poolside restaurant under a thatch roof in the Hotel Pasatiempo is not to be missed. Chef Vincent from Biarritz is very serious about the food, and ceremoniously visits tables, wearing a proper, white chef’s toque. The lunchtime atmosphere here is casual but at dinner, tablecloths, candles and a cool, world-music soundtrack rev up the romance and sophistication.
Try the signature whole snapper grilled in a salt coating: crunchy on the outside and moistly flavorful inside ($15.50). Carnivores can savor the steak tartare ($16) and bikini-conscious beauties can stay slim but satisfied with the super healthy, Supermodel vegetarian salad ($9.50). Mains are accompanied by a delicate potato gratin, a plump, herby roasted tomato and exotic salad. There’s wine by the glass and the bottle.
Be sure to save room for dessert – profiteroles made with homemade, perfect choux pastry, filled with vanilla ice cream and smothered in a dark, rich chocolate sauce ($5.50). Chef Vincent has a special German oven that allows him to bake divine macarons – an exalted French version of Oreos, with light, crunchy merengue cookies sandwiching tropical-fruit-flavored cream fillings ($5.50). Ttiki is open for lunch – salads, wraps, fish, grilled mussels and elegant burgers – and dinner, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Wednesdays. www.hotelpasatiempo.com. 2653-4778.
Pangas Beach Club
The hottest – make that the coolest – new beachfront spot is right on the Tamarindo estuary, where ocean meets river. The location is gorgeous and so is the hip, contemporary design, with well-spaced driftwood tables and chairs set on the sand, blending in perfectly with the unobstructed sea and sand view. As for the food, suffice it to say that innovative Executive Chef Jean-Luc Taulere, of Mar y Sol fame in Playa Flamingo, is in charge here.
The artistic fish-market display as you enter provides a tantalizing visual menu. Fish tacos, coconut shrimp, seared tuna, grilled mahi-mahi come with healthful and tasty sides: yuca, quinoa and exotic salads ($8-$25). Craft beer is on tap and sunset cocktail specials change daily. Come for breakfast, brunch or lunch in your swimsuit; there’s even a place to store surfboards. In the evening, this is the place to see and be seen in your chic-est resort wear. Open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. North end of beach, about 150 meters north of Tamarindo Vista Villas. 2653-0024.
Sharky’s Sports Bar
If you like sports events on really big screens, loud music and a dance floor and way-better-than-average bar food, this is the place, especially if you’re hungry late at night. Load up on such high-calorie standards as chili and hot dogs, BBQ wings, fish and chips, cheesy fries, jalapeña poppers, onion rings and nachos, as you watch any of nine screens showing three games at a time. Or opt for a healthier grilled chicken salad ($7). A signature cocktail is the Obama Bomb – rum, Redbull and a splash of piña ($5). It’s open 5 p.m.- 2:30 a.m. on weekdays; from 11 a.m. on weekends. Located 50 meters off Main Street, on the road to Playa Langosta.
Amidst myriad exotic eateries in town, this small oasis offers fast food with Middle East flavor. Homemade pitas are stuffed with the namesake falafels and hummus. There’s also Israeli-style fried chicken breast, chicken shawarma, and lamb kebabs ($6-$12). Vegetarians will appreciate the Moroccan carrot salad, tabouleh and babaganoush ($1.20-$1.60). For dessert, there’s Malabi, a milk pudding with chopped nuts, coconut and a sweet swirl of rosewater syrup ($3). It’s across from Sharky’s and it’s open 11 a.m.-midnight. 8426-8646.
Seasons by Shlomy
Best for last – this intimate, dinner-only, poolside restaurant in the hip Arco Iris Hotel is still the very best dinner deal in town. Chef Shlomy Koren continues to create the most exciting Mediterranean-fusion food in town at incredibly reasonable prices. The bread basket is the harbinger of great things to come – freshly baked rolls topped with cumin and black sesame seeds, eggy challah-style bread sweetened with raisins, and sea-salt-studded focaccia.
A master of textures, Shlomy’s starter of calamari served on garbanzo beans and hummus is smooth and crunchy with al dente nuts ($8). Mains change with the seasons. If you’re in luck, there will be snapper cooked in a rice-paper wrapper, savory and moist, almost fluffy, flavored with a sundried tomato and basil tapenade, and bathed in a lemon-chili sauce ($17). Chocolate lovers will dream forever about the Toblerone – dense chocolate with almond nougat combines with a dark chocolate ganache. The best deal is the set $25 three-course dinner of your choice, off the menu. (Cash only). Arco Iris Hotel, uphill from the turnoff to Playa Langosta road. Closed Sunday. 8368-6983.
Too Tired to Dine Out?
Then dine in, courtesy of TicoToGo Express Delivery, which will bring the dishes of more than 25 Tamarindo restaurants to the doorstep of your hotel room, condominium or beach house. Check out the menu offerings on their web site – www. ticotogo.com – order and pay on-line or call 800-Tico-ToGo (800-8426-8646) and pay on delivery. Your order will be sped to you via motorcycle. The delivery charge is a modest $2, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; $5 from 2 p.m.-3 a.m.
Dinner with Theater
Catch this weekend’s performances of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” presented by Tamarindo’s Mixed Nuts theater group at Fisch’s Restaurant (see the adjacent columns page and the events calendar.